As we predicted a month ago in our introductory post on Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Malta, the event is providing a host of anecdotes to keep us going for years. We didn’t predict however that there would be so much to talk about before his arrival. We thought it would be a case of another papal visit to a small nation of fervent Catholics that would spark little interest beyond our shores.
Malta, while having its own alleged victims of child abuse at the hands of Catholic priests (court case is ongoing), has been distracted by far less weighty matters – the kind of titivating tattle that we’d envisaged. And the nation hasn’t let us down! The BBC, the Huffington Post and most of the world’s news agencies have picked up on one of the more hilarious ones – about a piece of roundabout art. The tale of the Colonna Mediterranea once again shows Malta featuring in international news for all the wrong reasons.
Malta’s Roundabout Colonna
Rome has its Colonna Marco Aurelio which stands proudly right outside Palazzo Chigi, the seat of the Italian government. It has been in that spot since 193 A.D. It will be a familiar sight to the Pope.
Malta, not to be outdone, has its Colonna Mediterranea, an ‘interesting’ totem of modern art which has stood, proud, since 2006 on a small roundabout not far from the airport and at the gateway to the town of Luqa. The Pope is scheduled to pass by Colonna Mediterranea on his visit to Malta at the weekend.
The prospect of the Pontiff catching sight of this phallic-shaped column of art work has excited the Islands, and now caused much hilarity internationally in recent days. There are those, like the Luqa mayor, who want it removed for his visit, if not forever; and those who think it’s just what it is supposed to be – modern art that’s mildly thought provoking. First, let’s be practical: while the Pope might have been inclined to look at a column as historic as the one in Rome, if his schedule allowed, it’s highly unlikely he’ll even glimpse Colonna Mediterranea.
And hiding the colonna away or removing it altogether is like teen behaviour; it slaps of hiding copies of Playboy under the bed when parents are around. The nation needs to mature, leave the colonna just where it is and get on with focusing on the issues that matter. The alleged child abuse scandals will be what fuel the Pope’s ‘annus horibilis’ not his catching sight of a colourful, phallic-shaped artwork from a high-speed Popemobil.